Rev. Drury Lacy was born on 5 October 1758, in Chesterfield Co., Va., and died on 5 November 1815, at the home of a friend, Robert Ralston, in Philadelphia, PA. Death was caused by the effects of an operation for kidney calculi. Rev. Lacey had gone to Philadelphia in order to obtain the best medical service available. The operation was on a Monday and by Tuesday he was very low and said that he trusted in the Lord. He requested Robert to write a letter to Mrs. Lacy in case of his death to comfort her. By nightfall, he was in great pain and expired the next day. He was interred in the cemetery of the Third Street Presbyterian Church, later the Pine Street Presbyterian Church. He had a twin sister whose name and fate are unknown. In some places she is referred to as Catherine, and possibly she was Dorcas, whose birthdate is unknown. Some even suggest it was Dorcas, but this does not seem likely since she was the executrix of William's will.
Drury was reared on his father's farm in Chesterfield County in meager circumstances, with the full intention of following in the footsteps of his father as a farmer. But an accident in his youth, which at the time appeared catastrophic, abruptly changed the course of his life, to his great benefit , and to all of his descendants as well. The story of the accident is as follows:-
At a muster of the militia, a soldier had overloaded his musket and feared to discharge it himself. Without informing them of the over-loading and the consequent danger of firing it, he asked some boys if they would like to discharge it. Young Lacy volunteered; the weapon exploded, terribly mangling and tearing off Lacy's left hand.
The wound healed but, without the use of two hands, Lacy felt that he would be unable to earn a living as a farmer, and so turned his thoughts to the profession of teaching or clerking. This would require an education and he had not the funds to pay for tuition at a private school - there were no public ones - or to hire a tutor. His mother had died when he was about 12 years of age, and his father never remarried. His sisters, Keziah and Dorcas, assumed the duties of running the household as his elder sister, Agnes, had married in 1764.
Drury was sent to a noted boarding school run by Mr. McRea, an Espiscopal clergyman, in Powhatan, and was away when his father died in 1775, a circumstance that required his immediate presence at home, thus ending, for a time, his education. He and his sisters had a difficult time as they were destitute of funds. Keziah, as previously noted, sold the homestead, which gave them badly needed funds. Drury managed to continue his studies by obtaining a teaching position in a "school of the humblest class and the compensation was barely sufficient to procure for him the plainest clothing."
At the age of 18, he secured a position as tutor in the family of Daniel Allen in Cumberland County, who was an elder in the Presbyterian Church of which Rev. John Blair Smith, President of Hampden-Sydeny College, was pastor. Here Drury became acquainted with Rev. Smith and his ministry. Shortly thereafter, he joined the church of which Rev. Smith had charge. This was an important move in Drury's life, for Rev. Smith, noting his ability, took him "under his wing". At this time, he was self-taught for the most part and had acquired a fair working knowledge of geography, grammar, algebra, geometry and surveying. He was encouraged and helped in his studies by Rev. Smith. He later became a turor in the family of Col. John Nash of Prince Edward County, and while there, enjoyed the instruction of Rev. Smith one or two hours a week. With this assistance, he acquired a
sufficient knowledge in Greek and Latiin so that at the age of twenty-three, he was offered the position of "tutor" at Hampden-Sydney College. He continued his studies there privately.
"Collections of the Va. Hist. Soc.", Vol. 5, it states that "he possessed marked powers of oratory. He could lift up his voice like a trumpet, and its silvery notes fell sweetly upon the ears of the most distant auditors in large congregations, wherever assembled, in houses or in the open air. A silver finger affixed to the wrist of his shattered hand gave him the name of "silver hand". He was unusually successful in his addresses to the colored people."
His son, Rev. William Sterling Lacy, contributed the following article for inclusion in Sprague's "Annals of the American Pulpit", Vol. III. (Presbyterian Hist. Soc., Philadelphia, Pa.)
"He left but few sermons, and those not entirely finished, and far inferior to his ordinary pulpit performances, having been written in the earlier years of his ministry. During the last fifteen years of his life, the period of his greatest ministerial success, he rarely, if ever, wrote his sermons, and but seldom prepared even short notes for the pulpit. His preparation was almost exclusively mental and spiritual. He thought intensely upon his subject, and arranged the matter carefully in his mind, and then trusted to the occasion to suggest the appropriate language. I have often, when a youth, been greatly impressed with the deep abstraction and awful solemnity depicted in his countenance, while engaged in meditation, as he was walking in his chamber or in the yard. And when from these scenes of meditation and prayer he went into the pulpit, there was frequently in his preaching a solemnity and pathos, a freshness and vigour, a penetrating, burning, melting eloquence which I have never known surpassed. At the same time, candour compels me to say that not unfrequently there was a dryness, hardness, and confusion in his preaching, with an utterance hurried and painfully loud, which brought him, for the time, as far below the average of respectable preachers, as he usually rose above it. He was at times subject to deep mental depression; and then he was frequently unable to make any preparation for the pulpit; and the consequence was that his preaching was attended with pain and grief almost insupportable to himself, and with disappointment to his hearers. But for the most part. he enjoyed the light of his Father's countenance in a remarkable degree. His style was formed very much upon the model of the sacred writers, and his discourses were enriched with large and pertinent quotations from the Word of God. In reading a chapter from the Bible in the presence of his congregation, as if he were speakingextemporaneously. The same was true of him while reading or rather reciting the psalm or hymn. His utterance was rendered doubly effective by the expression of his beaming and flexible countenance, and the power of is flashing and melting eye."
The following letter from Mrs. John Holt Rice is quoted from the same publication:
"Dear Sir: I knew Mr. Lacy well from my very early years. He was a near neighbor of my father, and he often walked to our house for exercise, and to enjoy conversation with my good mother, and I may say, a play with the children. By taking part in our little sports, he made us all love him, and by the good instruction which he took care to communicate, he made us respect and revere him. He contrived as to secure our confidence that we did not hesitate to impart to him any secret; and he would advise us in so gentle a way that we were scarcely sensible that he was advising us at all. His grand aim evidently was to bring us to the Saviour. Often would he tell me how he longed to see my face blowing with an expression of love to God, and how dangerous it is to enter a world like this without bring a true Christian. And after I became thoughtful on the subject of religion, nothing could exceed the interest which he manifested that my serious impressions might not pass away.
His person was very large and imposing, and his countenance, when lighted up, was most expressive and delightful. I can in no way bring him more plainly before me, than by thinking of him as he was listening with delight to Dr. Alexander's eloquence, and casting is deep blue eyes over the congregation, with the tears streaming down his cheeks, to notice the effect which it produced. His own preaching was simple and natural, and sometimes very eloquent. His prayers, especially in his latter years, were particularly fervent; and he seemed, like Abraham, the friend of God, most reverently and devoutly speaking, as if face to face, to his Heavenly Father. He was uncommonly successful as a preacher to the colored people; and his addresses to them at the Lord's table were most simple and impressive, and often highly pathetic. In his private intercourse he was cheerful and sociable, but never lost sight of what was due from him, and due to him, as a Christian minister. A good old lady remarked that he exceeded any one she ever saw at a Sacrament, and at a wedding. When inquired ofif he thought it was sinful to dance, he would say, -'Be warmly engaged in religion, and then you may dance as much as you please'. My recollections of him, both in the pulpit and out of it, are most grateful and affectionate.
To supply in some measure the deficiency of my own account of Mr. Lacy, I take the liberty to add the following graphic account of him from the pen of his intimate friend, Dr. (Archibald) Alexander:
'About the time that Mr. Lacy entered the ministry, commenced that remarkable revival of religion, which extended more or less through every part of Virginia where Presbyterian congregations existed. And although Dr. J. B. Smith was the principal instrument of that work, yet the labours of Mr. Lacy were, in no small degree, successful. His preaching was calculated to produce deep and solemn impressions. His voice was one of extraordinary power. Its sound has been heard at more than a mile's distance. His voice was not only loud, but clear and distinct; in the largest assemblies convened in the woods, he could always be heard with ease at the extremity of the congregation. On this account, Mr.. Lacy was always one of the prominent preachers at great meetings. His preaching also was with animation. His address to his hearers, whether saints or sinners, was warm and affectionate. Indeed, according to his method of preaching, lively feeling in the speaker was an essential thing to render it either agreeable or impressive. Mr. Lacy was therefore a much more eloquent and impressive preacher on special occasions, when every circumstance combined to wind up the mind to a high tone of excitement, than in his common and every day discourses, in which he was always evangelical, but sometimes flat and uninteresting. Upon the whole it may serve to characterize his preaching, to say it was better suited to the multitude than to the select few who possess great refinement of taste; better adapted to satisfy and feed the plain and sincere Christian, than to furnish a feast for men of highly cultivated intellect. He enjoyed unspeakable pleasure of knowing a considerable number of humble, exemplary Christians, who ascribe their first impressions to his preaching or conversation; for he excelled in the art of conversing on the subject of experimental religion. To inquirers and young converts he addressed himself in private in a very happy manner' which was to them often the means of important spiritual benefits. And on general subjects he conversed in an agreeable and instructive manner.
With great regard, sincerely yours, Anne S. Rice."
In physique, Rev. Lacey is reported to have been over six feet tall with a large frame, but not corpulent, with a weight of about 200 pounds and blue eyes.
While a resident of Powhatan Co., Va., he married Nancy Ann Smith, on 25 December 1789. Her brother, Josiah, was surety. She was the daughter of William and Mary Smith. Nancy was born on 6 April 1760 and died on 8 November 1815, two days after Drury's death. She took a violent fever when Drury left for Philadelphia and his fatal operation. The letter he requested written to her, never reached her in this life. These dates are taken from the Bible record of Drury's Bible, records were continued by his son, William Sterling Lacy. The Bible is a Scott Bible, printed in Philadelphia in 1809 by W. W. Woodward. The names of Rev. Drury Lacy and Robert Lacy are listed in front as subscribers. Upon the death of Drury, the Bible came into the possession of William Sterling, and is presently in the possession of Sterling S. Lacy, a great grandson of William Sterling. [N. B. Hubert got facsimiles of the pages of records through Roy E. Lacy, another noted Lacy researcher.]
Rev. Drury Lacy purchased 400 acres of land in Prince Edward Co., Va. from John Price, consideration of £ 300, "beginning where Gaulding's line crossed Barron Lick Branch, then on Gauilding's line, ... . (Deed Bk. 10, p. 127). It was on this place that he made his home, which he called Mount Ararat, and which he willed to his son Drury. [N. B. Hubert and Howell Lacy visited the site of Mount Ararat in the spring of 1966. The old home had been destroyed by a tornado in 1928; a new home was being erected on its site. In fact, a small subdivision was being constructed in the area, much of which is on the old plantation of 400 acres.]
Rev. Drury also owned another tract of land situated on the south side of Barron Lick, purchased from William Gaulding; this was willed to his son, Drury in addition to the original plantation. He claimed an interest, through his wife, of certain lands in Mason Co., Va. (now W. Va.), legatee of William Smith his father-in-law. He willed this interest to his sons, William S. and James H.
Records of Powhatan Co., Va., reveal that he was appointed guardian of the children of his sister, Dorcas, whose husband had died, leaving three children:
"Drury Lacy, Josiah Smith and James Clarke, entered bond for $1000.00 to certain justices of Powhatan County, Va., for Drury Lacy to act as Guardian for the orphans of William Howard, who are Polley Howard, Thomas Howard, and Betsy Howard." Jan. 5, 1800.
[N. B. Sources on Rev. Drury Lacy: Bible of Drury Lacey and Wm. Sterling Lacy; "Annals of the American Pulpit", Sprague, courtesy Presbyterian Hist. Soc., Philadelphia' Foote's "Sketches of Virginia"; Dict. of American Biography; Collections of Va. Hist. Soc. Vol 5; "History of Prince Edward Co., Va.", by Herbert Clarence Bradshaw; Records in Powhatan and Prince Edward Co.; various family records; "Notable Americans",Vol;. 6.]